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Person County Genealogy

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Person County is a county located in the Piedmont region in north-central North Carolina in the United States. It is part of the Durham-Chapel Hill Metropolitan Area. The population was 35,623 at the 2000 census.

The county seat is Roxboro. The Hyco Lake area and southern portion of the county are the fastest growing, with new businesses and subdivisions.

This area was inhabited by indigenous peoples, ancestors of Native Americans, for 12,000 years, over which time they developed varying cultures. Starting about 1000 CE, the Mississippian culture peoples built earthwork mounds in their chiefdoms in the western part of the state, such as Joara. Some of these native people were encountered by the Spanish Juan Pardo expedition in the mid-1500s, which at Fort San Juan established the first European settlement in the interior.

Other European explorers arrived in Person County in the 1600s. European-American settlement, by immigrants of Scots, Scots-Irish, English, French Huguenot, and German ancestry, did not take place until the mid-17th through 19th centuries. Some migrants brought enslaved African Americans with them, or imported some later.

European-Americans established Person County as part of Edgecombe County in 1746. County designations kept changing, as it was part of Granville County from 1746–1752; included in Orange County until 1778; and part of Caswell County until 1791/1792. By dividing Caswell County into two squares–each side measuring approximately twenty (20) miles in length, the settlers formed two counties of 400–square miles each.

Roxboro is the only incorporated municipality in the county. There are nine townships, many with community centers or postal offices. The city of Roxboro was chartered January 9, 1855.


Religious affiliation in the county has reflected the early northern European cultural base and been predominantly Protestant. There are fewer people of Catholic and other faiths. Due to the county’s proximity to Virginia, the Carolina coast, and the Appalachian foothills, a wide variety of Southern American English dialects can be heard, with Virginia Piedmont, Coastal Southern, South Midland, and African American Vernacular English the most common.

Early 20th-century local legends claimed that the Indians of Person County (recognized by the state as a tribe in 1911) were descended from the first British colonists at the Elizabethan-era settlement of Roanoke Island. No verifiable links to the Roanoke Colony have been documented.

In 2003 the Indians of Person County changed their name to Sappony, to indicate their connection to the historical Saponi, a Southeastern Siouan tribe. Historians believe that this Siouan-related nation became extinct as a distinct entity in the Eastern states, although individual descendants continue. No historical documentation links the contemporary Sappony to the historical Saponi.

In the 19th century, ancestors of the current Sappony included many persons of multiracial heritage: European and African in addition to Native American. The slave societies of the colonies and early United States did not recognize American Indians separately and at different times counted them among the free blacks, mustees, mulattoes for free people of color at different times. The county’s multiracial population was one of a number of frontier communities which anthropologists classified as tri-racial isolates. Later 20th c. research has shown that many of these people migrated from Virginia in the late 18th and early 19th century. They were descendants of people of color free in Virginia before the American Revolution. Researcher Paul Heinegg has shown that most of these free families originated in marriages between white women and African or African-American men. Some free Native Americans who adopted English customs may have married into African-American communities as well. Heinegg documented that 80 percent of the people listed as free people of color in the NC censuses of 1790-1810 could be traced to African Americans free in Virginia before the Revolution.

Revolutionary & Civil War

The county was named for General Thomas Person, a Revolutionary War patriot, who made significant contributions to Person County and surrounding areas. He was a trustee of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His generous donations were recognized by the construction and naming of Person Hall.

Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Moore (often referred to as “General” because he was named the Deputy Quartermaster General of the Hillsborough district) was another Revolutionary War hero of note, commanding Person County troops in the Battle of Camden. He was taken prisoner and placed on the prison ship Torbay. In 1775-6 he purchased property in the southern part of the county and named it Mt. Tirzah. His house, built in 1778 and still at its original site, has been recently renovated. Moore was buried near the house along with many other family members.

During the Civil War, Person County supplied 800 to 1000 soldiers to the Confederate cause. A granite monument at the Person County Courthouse honors E. Fletcher Satterfield, who advanced the Confederate flag at Gettysburg. After the war, many of the area’s large plantations were divided into smaller farms.

Agriculture and industry

J.A. Long, W.W. Kitchin, A.R. Foushee, J.S. Bradsher, J.C. Pass, W.F. Reade, and R.E. Long were key leaders who helped make a transition to a more diversified economic base after the Civil War. The arrival of the Norfolk and Western Railroad was a major influence around 1890, as it enabled the addition of tobacco processing plants and warehouses to the rural economy. Although the processing plants disappeared many years ago, a few of the warehouses still stand.

J.A. Long established Peoples Bank in 1891 and the Roxboro Cotton Mills in 1899, later known as Tultex Yarns. Long died in 1915 but was succeeded by his son, J.A. Long, Jr., who began attracting new business to Roxboro. Baker Company opened here in 1923, making textiles a major contributor to the local economy for decades. Baker was merged with Collins and Aikman Corporation (C&A), becoming a major industry in Person County for several decades before closing in August 2006. Textile manufacturers have moved to other locations in the US and overseas.

20th & 21st Century

Residential & Commercial development has grown steady over the past few years in part due to the county’s location near the Research Triangle region. The Hyco Lake area and southern portion of the county has seen an influx of new home and commercial development in the late 20th and early 21st-century. The county’s largest employers are GKN, Eaton Corporation and Georgia-Pacific Corporation.

2010 Tornado

On the night of March 28, 2010 between 11:55pm and 12:05am EDT an EF1 packing winds of 70-85 mph struck the Timberlake and Rougemont community. This was one of at least eight tornado’s that hit NC.

Initial touchdown of the tornado occurred along fire tower Road off Moores Mill Road in extreme southeast Person County as a weak EF0 with wind speeds of 65-70 mph. The tornado then moved northeast crossing Helena-Moriah Road. Trees including both pines and hardwoods were sheared off a quarter to halfway up. Damage here was rated as EF0 (70-80 mph). The tornado continued moving northeast striking a subdivision off Stoney Mountain Road and Mountain Ridge Road. Several trees were twisted off and uprooted and a couple of modular homes sustained damage when trees fell on them. Estimated winds were 75-85 mph rating it an EF0. The worst damage occurred as the tornado moved northeast across Medford Oakley Road. Numerous pines and hardwoods were snapped off and uprooted and a modular home was moved off its foundation. The tornado reached EF1 strength here with winds of 90-100 mph. The tornado then moved into a wooded area where it weakening producing minor damage to an old barn and weak tree damage near Peed Road. Wind speeds here were estimated at 65 mph.

Source: Wikipedia.

Person County Genealogy Resources

Person County NCGenweb site

Person County NCGenWeb Archives

Person County Historical Society
P.O. Box 887
Roxboro, NC 27573

VA-NC Piedmont Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 2272
Danville, VA 24541
(covers Caswell, Person, and Rockingham Counties in NC, and a few VA counties)


Person County Government

Person County Government – official page

Person County Register of Deeds (Online Search)
PO Box 209
21 Abbitt Street
Roxboro, NC 27573
(336) 597-1733

Person County Public Library
319 South Main St.
Roxboro, NC 27573
Mon – Thurs
9:00 – 6:00pm
9:00 – 5:00pm
9:00 – 3:00pm
(336) 597-7881
(336) 597-5081

Cities and Towns of Person County:


Township Districts:

Bushy Fork
Flat River
Mount Tirzah
Olive Hill
Woodsdale (which includes Bethel Hill)

Unincorporated Areas:

* Hurdle Mills
* Leasburg
* Rougemont
* Semora
* Timberlake


1800 Federal Census Images

1800 Federal Census Transcription Partial – one page extract

1820 Federal Census Transcription – Partial – two page extract

1870 Federal Census Images

1880 Federal Census Images


USGS listing of cemeteries in Person County

Cemetery Transcriptions

Person County Cemetery Census

Query Forums

Person County, NC Query Forum

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